A Teachable Moment with “Gifted Hands”

03 Oct

If you are a teacher or a serious parent more concerned about his or her child’s future as a working adult than a child having fun and/or being entertained all of the time, then this may be a teachable moment.

But first, 43% of adults at the lowest level of literacy lived below the poverty line, as opposed to 4% of those with the highest levels of literacy.

In addition, in 2010, the unemployment rate for adults that did not have a high school diploma was almost 16%. However, for adults with a Bachelors degree or higher (that means a college education), that unemployed rate was 5%.

In addition, since 1992, the unemployment rate for workers with a BA or better averaged 3.31%, but for high school dropouts the average was 8.84%. The lowest unemployment rate for college graduates was in 2001 at 1.5%, but it was 6% for high school dropouts the same year.

After I bought a copy of “Gifted Hands” at Costco recently, we watched the Ben Carson story. It was a film based on the life of a real person and the mother that made a difference in his life. Not once in the film was it suggested that it was the responsibility of any of Carson’s teachers to turn off the TV in Carson’s home and for his mother to tell him he had to visit the library and read books instead of watching TV.

In fact, the teachable moment may be to watch the film “Gifted Hands” (the entire film is embedded—second video—in this post and it has Spanish subtitles), then discuss who and what made the difference in Ben Carson’s life. Then have the child write a one page essay about what he or she learned about the importance of reading instead of watching TV.

Ben Carson’s mother had a third grade education and she got married at age 14 to later discover that her husband was a bigamist. For me, the teachable moment was when Carson’s mother turned off the TV and told her two sons that they were going to check books out of the library, read them, and then write a report of each book to be read out loud to the mother. She could not read but she could listen.

Ben Carson: An extraordinary Life – Conversations from Penn State

In the previous embedded video, at 6:32 minutes, Carson says once he started doing a lot of reading, he stopped hating poverty and realized that he didn’t have to stay in that lifestyle.  He could change his life to anything he wanted it to be by working for it.

Note: I love using the word WORK to describe what we do as adults to earn money legally.

In one scene, Carson is being given an award for being the top student in his mostly white school and a teacher embarrasses him when she tells all of the white students in the room that they allowed themselves to be beaten by a fatherless black student living in poverty.

What that teacher did was uncalled for—it was cruel and racist. However, she told the white students they were lazy and could have easily beaten Carson for the academic honor he earned. She should have criticized the parents of those white students for letting their children watch too much TV.

The message I learned from this film pointed out exactly how to encourage students to learn to read and work hard in school to earn an education—not more laws that hold only public school teachers responsible for the education of a child.

Studies show that the average American child talks to his or her parents less than five minutes a day and spends more than 10 hours a day outside of school watching too much TV (on average three hours a day outside of school) in addition to playing video games, listening to music, social networking on the Internet, hanging out with friends, sending text messages, etc.

You may be able to watch the movie here. I found this link on You Tube, and it has Spanish subtitles.

There was another scene in the movie with a science teacher.  When Carson was the only student in the class to answer a question, the teacher kept Carson after school, because when most teachers see an opportunity to help a motivated student, he or she does help.  Teachers can only help students that help themselves and it is up to the parents to do the rest.

Carson’s mother had a third grade education but her son’s went to college. Today Benjamin S. Carson is the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins Children’s Center. His brother is an engineer. Through reading and an education, this family left poverty and the high risk of unemployment behind.

Answer this question: If Carson’s mother had left that TV on, do you honestly believe he would be where he is today?

Discover What is the Matter with Parents these Days


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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